Wednesday, 1 November 2017
A Play By John Pielmeier
Adapted From The Novel By William Peter Blatty
Arrrrrrrgh! It may be past the witching hour of Halloween (it's November 1st!) but the demons still are guiding TLT's hand as she pens a review of The Exorcist. Lucky it's all on the internet because - hide your eyes if you don't want to know - the pen, instead of ink, is spurting blood ... 😱😵💀😈😈!!!!
Yes, it's The Exorcist adapted by John Pielmeier from the novel by the late William Peter Batty (no, no, it's ok, it's ok, he died at a ripe old age in a hospital earlier this year!).
The 1973 movie adaptation, with Linda Blair as the devil's victim, remains the best-known spawn of this devilish concoction, a cinematic scarefest that helped launch a thousand other diabolic cinematic franchises ... The Omen, Carrie, The Shining ...
There’s a mildly enjoyable night of schlock horror to be had in this production originating at Birmingham Rep, seemingly trundled out every Halloween.
It won't have you calling the demonic lawyers in for a breach of the Trades Descriptions' Act - as long as you're prepared, tongue-in-cheek-style, to buy into the corny horror tropes.
The special effects are nothing to scream home about and it's the occasional moments of pure physical acting, especially from Claire Louise Connolly as the possessed daughter of Jenny Seagrove's actress divorcée, which elicit the most genuine gasps from the audience and stop the giggles.
Anna Fleischle's set design has the feel of a haunted crooked tower with the action on several levels.
But for TLT, who has seen the movie, and her witch's cat-cum-car sidekick, who hasn’t, the Tutankhamen-curse-like side of the story was very unclear, felt irrelevant and the jumping from scene to scene broke up any previously built-up tension.
This is a play with the parts written so thinly, they seem anorexic. Many in the audience may be left puzzling as to why certain minor characters ever appear and disappear - walking out of the door rather than supernaturally.
The writer John Pielmeier and the director Sean Mathias obviously are relying on the sensational, communal effect on an audience. But, in the end, the creaky fairground effects are not so-grand-guignol.
There’s a good, solid cast of actors and Peter Bowles has the stature (that's to say height) to bring off an iconic moment when he first appears, ready to perform the exorcism.
But the supporting characters are only there to watch helplessly a sweet little girl’s initiation into the diabolic and the profane, using the recognizable tones of a well known actor as the devil.
The stage version of The Exorcist does also have (sorry, TLT couldn’t avoid mentioning this but she left it until near the end) a disturbing, presumably unintended, resonance with the re-emergence of specific Hollywood child abuse revelations and, perhaps more understandably for the time of the book's first appearance, Catholic church scandals.
The show correctly has an Adults-Only (or in 1970s’ filmspeak X certificate) label. Finally, though, however much it is a book adaptation divorced from the movie, this feels like a decidedly old-school take on a satanic celluloid classic.
TLT can't help comparing how it is shorn of the cinematic political gestures, psychological and magnified big screen thrills. It should have been hot as hell, but finally attracts a lukewarm amber light. 😈💀